One of the challenges of writing is finding the balance between giving the reader enough information to be able to keep up, while not giving too much information to bore the reader. How-to? In my writing, I try to peel away as much as possible in the text, to find the border between the comprehensible and the incomprehensible. And then take a step back to the comprehensible. Of what remains, I prefer that each word has a value for the text.

I remember an old colleague of mine who at that time had become interested in writing. Around this time, I had started playing with words, which is why what he told me also became interesting for me and my creation.
He told me that one evening he had played Pictionary (a game where you have to draw and guess) with some friends and got the word “Telephone wire” on the note. He had drawn what he thought looked like a telephone wire between two poles. But no one could see what it was. Then he thought of drawing some birds sitting on the wire and suddenly the answer came from one of his friends.

He said that he then thought that this must be exactly what one strives for in his writing – the birds on the wire! That little detail that says it all! I thought it made sense and it’s something I’ve taken with me in my writing. What is the least I need to tell so that the reader will still see and feel the whole environment? How do I paint a living landscape without becoming long-winded and without writing on the reader’s nose?

You can try – try writing a short text about a summer morning without once using the words “summer” or “morning”. Try to write the text as short as possible – preferably just one sentence. Constraint is the mother of creativity! Or write a longer text and then clear away everything that is not necessary for the reader to understand that it is about a summer morning. Can it be expressed in just one phrase, just one word? It is very helpful to have those birds on the telephone wire with you. Which word or words should I use that explains the whole scene? How do I turn the telephone wire into a telephone wire?

I find a fine example in Carl Henrik Svenstedt’s book In the Light of the Province. He writes about the sparse rural area’s longing for the big city: “Coal smoke and noise, congestion, people’s bodies. Dark cafes where the newspapers are read by many hands. Early mornings where the first calls fall like coins into the wells of the farms.” (Ordfront, 1984)

Mattias is an author and illustrator

%d bloggers like this: